Ask the Expert

QUESTION:

I am in the process of reviewing how our QA Specialists operate.  We currently score and coach the calls for the call center associates.  I am contemplating making the switch to scoring the calls only and providing the data to operational leaders to coach.  I believe this change would allow us to centralize our QA team to one location, provide a larger sampling of quality call views, and promote coaching by operational leaders.

I am curious as to what approach others take and what they feel are the pros and cons of that approach.   If you have any insight you could share on this matter, I would greatly appreciate it.  Thank you for your time. 

ANSWER:

I think there are some tradeoffs here with no clear “right” answer.  Doing both scoring and coaching with the QA specialists allows one process that is complete where the coach is the one who actually listened to the call.  So the coach has all the details and can help the agent beyond the basic score issue.  When the intent of QA is improvement, rewarding good behaviors, and coaching, this is a good process.  However, it may be difficult for the QA staff to meet its multiple goals of scoring x # of calls and scheduling the coaching processes.  Followup with the agents after the coaching may be nearly impossible to fit in.

In my experience with call centers, I’ve seen it work effectively both ways but with much effort in calibration, coordination, and communication.  Let me list out some specific pros and cons for you to consider:

QA Team evaluates calls then passes results to supervisors for coaching – PROs

QA is able to increase amount of calls monitored & evaluated, thus giving a more statistically valid sample size through which to draw conclusions on agent performance related to quality and overall effectiveness of customer service in call center.

When agents receive feedback from supervisors, often times it is taken “more seriously” because it is coming from their “boss.”

This minimizes the triangular communication that occurs when agents receive feedback from QA, and then dispute it with their supervisor who may not always support QA’s evaluation of call.

Supervisors are ultimately the ones responsible for agent performance and call coaching is the primary method for influencing their performance. The coach is the one who talked to the agent so she knows to look for the changes discussed and follow up on side-by-sides.

QA Team evaluates calls then passes results to supervisors for coaching – CONs

  1. This is more time consuming for supervisors who are juggling multiple tasks throughout the day, putting out “fires,” and may not allow enough time for thorough coaching sessions.
  2. Having not reviewed the call first-hand, supervisors may need to review portions of a call prior to the coaching session to prepare and understand coaching suggestions made by QA.  Again, this takes time.
  3. The QA job can become very mundane and no longer satisfying when the interaction that comes with coaching is removed.
  4. It is difficult to personalize QA’s  evaluation when they do not know what was specifically discussed during coaching session.  Example, when QA has had a conversation with agent about a specific skill, and then see agent practicing that skill in subsequent calls, they are more inclined to notice and acknowledge that effort in the next coaching session.
  5. When the scoring is done separately from the coaching, it is easy to develop a culture of “auditing” rather than coaching for improvement.  The score becomes the most important product of the QA department and the focus is on productivity (# of calls reviewed).

Either way you go, it is imperative to have both QA and Operational leaders attend calibration sessions together so they will have a place to discuss calls in order to gain a consistent understanding of behaviors expected on a call and how to interpret the evaluation form attributes and supporting definitions.  

Sometimes a combination of these approaches can work as well.  QA scores some calls and coaches also score and coach from additional calls.  That way more calls are reviewed total.  If the coach looks at the scores QA is getting and sees a trend that matches something he is seeing, then he can look further and try to get to the root cause of the issue.  The benefit is a larger and more statistically valid sample.  Once again, calibration will be critical and the QA specialists may well be viewed as the “audit team” since there is no link between what they are scoring and the coaching in many cases.  

It may even be reasonable to have senior agents rotate through the QA job.  It will allow them to see the process from the other side and bring that perspective to the other agents when they return to their regular jobs.  It also serves as an “apprenticeship” that might create a group of possible people to recruit into the department when an opening occurs.